30 March 2007

Some thoughts about the 21st Century

This blog posting is a little different than what we've done - meant mainly to make you think. It also involves watching a video on Windows Media Player. It's due before vacation starts.

You may think that what we do here is confined to our school, or even just to the community of Branford. That's not true. The other day, I came across the following blog posting which mentioned some of the work we have been doing with this blog. The reference was posted on the blog Shakespeare Teacher, which is maintained by Bill, a teacher with a computer and an affinity for Shakespeare. Read what he said about our blog here. His entry also includes a thought-provoking video worth seeing. You can also view it by clicking here - make sure you turn up the sound and be patient through the first few moments, which deals with another high school.

Reading Bill's post and watching the video got me thinking about how important it is for us to realize the potential of some of the digital tools we have begun using in English 10. Our world is changing immensely, things are shifting. What we write and post here can be read by people all over the world. They, in turn, can post their own ideas in response, creating opportunities to expand our ideas and influence well beyond F14. Are we taking full advantage of this technology?

After viewing this video, consider this: Web technology is transforming how we communicate, and it is opening up countless opportunities for the collaboration, discussion, and sharing of ideas. Our own example is only a small scale, but the potential is almost limitless. Such social networking has powerful potential and will be a major part of the world that you will be living and working in. We need to be ready to survive and thrive in that world. How can educators, like me, better prepare you for such a future? What kinds of skills will you need to be successful in a rapidly changing world like this?

Midsummer Post #4: Describing one of the characters

This is the fourth Midsummer post and is due before class starts on Tuesday, April 3.

Shakespeare created numerous memorable characters, who exhibit the human traits that people still have today. A Midsummer Night's Dream is no different. In this play, there are both human characters (mortals) and fairies, and all of them are unique.

Choose one of the characters we've met so far and describe what makes them unique. As part of your answer, choose a line or two of dialogue that the character speaks and use it to help explain that character's personality. Think of descriptive words and phrases to help illustrate just what kind of personality traits your chosen character has. Choose some lines of dialogue that accurately and clearly illustrate his or her personality.

Remember, when you cite dialoge from the play, follow this format: "Full of vexation come I, with complaint/Against my child, my daughter Hermia." (Act I, sc.1, lines 22- 23)

Good luck...

photo credit: Robert Huskisson. The Midsummer Night's Fairies, 1847.

27 March 2007

Midsummer Post #3: To whom would you give advice?

This is the third Midsummer post and is due before class starts on Friday, March 30.

In A Midsummer Night's Dream, we encounter four lovers. Each has a unique dilemma, some more serious than others. There's Hermia and Lysander, who love each other but can't be together. There's Helena, desperate for Demetrius's love and willing to do almost anything. And there's Demetrius, who has Helena's love, but would rather have Hermia's.

Imagine for a moment these four characters are regulars in the BHS commons. You are their friend, and they need your advice about what to do with their love life. Who would you give advice to, and what would you tell them? Choose one of the four lovers and write a note to them with your best friendly advice about their situation.

Start your letter, "Dear ____" ...

Don't hold back. The person you are giving advice to relies on you for being honest and upfront with them.

22 March 2007

Midsummer Post #2: Shakespeare and sitcoms

This is the second Midsummer post and is due before class starts on Wednesday, March 28.

A Midsummer Night's Dream is a comedy, which is something that today's television viewers should know a little something about.

According to Scholastic Scope magazine, Shakespeare wrote about three kinds of classic mix-ups: 1) mistaken identity, 2) love triangles, and 3) strange coincidences. Each of these classic mix-ups are staples on 21st Century sitcoms. The next time you watch your favorite sitcom or re-run, look for one of those classic mix-ups involving the characters.

For your assignment, select one (1) of the classic mix-ups from above and find an example of it from a popular sitcom you watch. First, describe the mix-up from the sitcom, and then explain how the humor of the mixed-up situation helps increase your enjoyment and appreciation of the show. What makes it funny?

As with all of these assignments, it is a good practice to write your response in a word processing program like Microsoft Word so you can better edit and proofread your entry before submitting it. It also makes sense to save a copy of your response in case you have problems posting.

20 March 2007

Midsummer Post #1: Creative ending assignment

This post is due before class starts Thur., March 22

The first thing we tackled when starting A Midsummer Night's Dream is the twisted, complex plot. You have been given a basic summary of the storyline of the play, all the way up to the end of Act III. For your reference, there is a version of the summary here.

Your assignment now is to take this mixed-up love mess and bring it to a conclusion with a happy ending. As it stands right now, everything is messed up and needs resolution. Assume the role of a narrator and finish the story. This is your chance to predict how this all turns out in the real play.

A couple things to remember before completing your posting: 1) your story must have a happy ending, just like a Shakespearean comedy would. 2) you must come up with a way to solve the problems of a majority of the characters. 3) your creative ending must be in the form of a story, continuing the storyline you've been given. Try to be creative and come up with an original, even outrageous, way to wrap up this storyline.

As with all entries, you might consider writing on a word processing program first so you can proofread, edit, and continuously save before your final posting. Saving it in a word processing program will also cover you in case there's a problem posting.

Photo credit: Bottom with the Faires in a costume sketch from Charles Kean's scrapbook for a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Shelfmark ART Vol. d48. from the Folger Shakespeare Library.

19 March 2007

Extra credit offered for English 10

Several of you have asked about extra credit in the past, and I have always said no, I don't offer it. One reason is because we have the revision policy, which allows you to re-submit an essay for a better grade. To me what we do in class is should be about learning, so if you want to get extra "credit" then you need to show me that you are doing extra learning. It's not about padding numbers for a grade point average bottom line.

However, I've begun to revise my thinking on this in light of several factors. For one, some of the writing we've done the last unit was not all of a traditional essay variety. We have begun to experiment with blogs and wikis - with mixed success. And of course it should always be about your learning. With all this in mind, I am going to offer extra opportunity to extend your learning. For those of you who want to improve your grade (say a C to a B or a B to an A), I suggest taking me up on this. For those of you satisfied with your grade (say you already have an A), I can offer you two things: a real opportunity to challenge yourself in preparation for future learning and the chance to bump your grade up to an A+.

I've come up with several ideas to demonstrate extra learning. Since we are in the 21st century and I want to prepare you for the skills of tomorrow's workplace, all of the choices involve technology. If you need technical assistance, please ask. But remember, part of this involves you learning more about the technology to maximize its potential. In all cases, if you want the extra credit, you must talk to me about what you'd like to do beforehand.

Below are some suggestions I came up with. Choose one or talk to me about your own idea.

  • Take your Literature Circle wiki page and organize the information on it. Put the ideas, passages, responses, and any other information into a coherent final product. This will mean re-arranging, editing, deleting, modifying etc. If someone else in your group wants to do it, then work with them. As part of this you will need to set up a free account and profile with wikispaces.
  • Work with someone from one of the other classes who read the same book as you and combine your pages into an organized final product. As part of this, you may have to create a whole new page with all the combined and edited information. You will also need to set up a free account and profile with wikispaces.
  • Create your own personal blog using Blogger.com or another free online program and post regular entries over an extended period of time. It doesn't have to be all about what we're reading, but more about what your interested in. As long as it's your thinking and writing. Post several times a week to earn the credit.
  • Work with a partner or a small group (doesn't have to be from your class period) to create and maintain a wiki resource on A Midsummer Night's Dream that includes information on the characters, themes, and some literary devices in the play. Set up a page in wikispaces or pbwiki and continually add to it. You won't earn credit just for setting it up, but rather for maintaining it by continuously adding and revising the information to it. If you do this right, it could become a great resource for you when you write a paper about the play later in the unit.
  • My wild card suggestion: Create something English class-related with Flickr. This is a photo sharing site that allows you to do many interesting things with digital pictures. Be creative. Learn something about how to use it for an English class, do it, and then show me.
  • Do you have any suggestions?

Important note: As with anything you do for school, you must abide by the Branford Public School's acceptable use policy for computers and the Internet.

05 March 2007

Literature Circles Post #6

This will be the final wiki posting for this unit. It is due before class starts on Thursday, March 8.

By now, you should be finished with your novel - Black Boy, The Color of Water, or Frankenstein. Your wiki page also should contain numerous quotes, themes, and personal responses from your novel that were posted by you and your classmates. It is likely that there is little formal organization to your group's wiki page, but rather a collection of ideas and thoughts.

For this assignment, post some closing thoughts about an important theme or broad topic that has been discussed already on the wiki, and identify a passage from the fourth part of the book that connects to your ideas.

Record your response on your group's wiki page - click here to access the wiki. Select a passage from the fourth part of the book that somehow illustrates how that idea or broad theme has evolved during the novel. Discuss how that relates to important ideas that have been raised throughout the novel. What happens at the end of the novel to resolve a major conflict related to the theme?

Write about 100-120 words to explain your ideas.

Remember to put your first name after your posting, so I can keep track of it.